Why Does Popcorn Pop?

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Without it, going to see Rogue One doesn't feel like a complete experience. It's so common in homes, movie theaters, and baseball games that you'd be forgiven for just taking the magic of popcorn for granted. But if you stop to think about it, can you explain how popcorn works? Why does popcorn pop?

As they so often are, Simon Whistler and the Today I Found Out YouTube channel are here to answer the world's most pressing questions. And as magical as it seems, there is no magic involved. It's just a simple bit of science and a wonderfully constructed variety of corn.

Inside each kernel of popcorn, a specific kind of corn with a very hard outer shell, is a bit of starch and a tiny amount of water. As the kernel is heated the water begins to turn into steam. When the pressure builds from the steam the air-tight kernel explodes, but only if the kernel is air-tight because otherwise the steam escapes and the pressure never builds to the point of causing the kernel to pop.

As the heating takes place, the starch inside turns into a sort of gel. The popping of the shell (and not the starch) allows the gel to expand rapidly. That gel turns "into thin, jelly-like bubbles" as it hits the air, according to American Chemical Society. "Neighboring bubbles fuse together and solidify, forming a three-dimensional network much like a sink full of soapsuds." That's the soon-to-be salty and buttery treat we all know and spill on the floor of movie theaters love.

Go a little deeper into how this process takes place in the video above. Though, fair warning, it doesn't explain why the movie theater popcorn is so much better than the popcorn you make at home.

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Dustin Nelson is a News Writer with Thrillist. He holds a Guinness World Record but has never met the fingernail lady. He’s written for Sports Illustrated, Rolling Stone, Men’s Journal, The Rumpus, and other digital wonderlands. Follow him @dlukenelson.